Kerala Blasters’ head coach Kibu Vicuna is not one who hesitates to make tough calls, a quality he displayed during Mohun Bagan’s title triumph in the last I-League.
On Sunday, during Blasters’ seventh-round ISL match against Hyderabad FC, Vicuna made a couple of tough calls that included fielding an all-Indian defence and replacing Garry Hooper with Jordan Murray as the lone striker. The changes appeared risky at the start but proved to be decisive as it paved the way for Blasters’ 2-0 win over Hyderabad, their first win of the season that came in the seventh match of the season. Hakku Nediyodath (29) and Jordan Murray (88) found themselves on the scoresheet.
Sunday’s match against Hyderabad FC was a daring adventure for the Blasters. Vicuna replaced the two foreign centre-backs, Bakary Kone and Costa Nhamoinesu, with Indians Hakku and Sandeep Singh, both playing their first matches of the season. Though eyebrows were raised, Hakku reposed the faith shown in him by the coach by putting Blasters ahead at the half-hour mark.
The goal was all about the ‘right man at the right time’. Winning a corner, Blasters ensured that their tallest player, Hakku, was well-positioned inside the box. Facundo Pereyra, who took the corner, crossed it in Hakku’s direction and the 26-year old lanky defender headed the ball into the Hyderabad net past a helpless Subrata Paul.
Jordan Murray justified his selection by putting the match beyond Hyderabad with just a couple of minutes to go for the final whistle. A defensive error from Hyderabad defender Adil Khan, who came in place of Chinglansana Singh, was capitalised by Murray whose first-time shot was good enough to beat Paul.
Even though there weren’t too many memorable moments in the match, the battle between the two development players on both sides, KP Rahul (Kerala Blasters) and Akash Mishra (Hyderabad FC) along the right-wing was a delight to watch. The 20-year old Rahul managed to outwit Akash who is a year younger than him, but the latter too made some brilliant runs through the wings in the second half.